CANTO SECOND. THE ISLAND 

I

At morn the blackcock trims his jetty wing,

‘Tis morning prompts the linnet’s blithest lay,

All Nature’s children feel the matin spring

Of life reviving, with reviving day; 


And while yon little bark glides down the bay,

Wafting the stranger on his way again,

Morn’s genial influence roused a minstrel gray,

And sweetly o’er the lake was heard thy strain,

Mixed with the sounding harp, 

O white-haired Allan-bane!



II
SONG

“Not faster yonder rowers’ might

Flings from their oars the spray,

Not faster yonder rippling bright,

That tracks the shallop’s course in light,

Melts in the lake away, 

Than men from memory erase

The benefits of former days;


Then, stranger, go! good speed the while,

Nor think again of the lonely isle.


“High place to thee in royal court, 

High place in battle line,

Good hawk and hound for silvan sport,

Where beauty sees the brave resort;

The honored meed be thine!


True be thy sword, thy friend sincere, 

Thy lady constant, kind and dear,

And lost in love, and friendship’s smile

 Be memory of the lonely isle.



III
SONG (Continued)

“But if beneath yon southern sky

A plaided stranger roam 

Whose drooping crest and stifled sigh,

And sunken cheek and heavy eye,

Pine for his Highland home;


Then, warrior, then be thine to show

The care that soothes a wanderer’s woe; 

Remember then thy hap ere while,

A stranger in the lonely isle.


“Or if on life’s uncertain main

Mishap shall mar thy sail;

If faithful, wise, and brave in vain, 

Woe, want, and exile thou sustain

Beneath the fickle gale;


Waste not a sigh on fortune changed,

On thankless courts, or friends estranged,

But come where kindred worth shall smile, 

To greet thee in the lonely isle.”



IV

As died the sounds upon the tide,

The shallop reached the mainland side,

And ere his onward way he took,

The stranger cast a lingering look, 

Where easily his eye might reach

The Harper on the islet beach,

Reclined against a blighted tree,

As wasted, gray, and worn as he.


To minstrel meditation given, 

His reverend brow was raised to heaven,

As from the rising sun to claim

A sparkle of inspiring flame.


His hand, reclined upon the wire,

Seemed watching the awakening fire; 

So still he sat, as those who wait

Till judgment speak the doom of fate;


So still, as if no breeze might dare

To lift one lock of hoary hair;

So still, as life itself were fled, 

In the last sound his harp had sped.



V

Upon a rock with lichens wild,

Beside him Ellen sat and smiled—

Smiled she to see the stately drake

Lead forth his fleet upon the lake, 

While her vexed spaniel, from the beach

Bayed at the prize beyond his reach?


Yet tell me, then, the maid who knows,

Why deepened on her cheek the rose?

Forgive, forgive, Fidelity! 

Perchance the maiden smiled to see

Yon parting lingerer wave adieu,

And stop and turn to wave anew;


And, lovely ladies, ere your ire

Condemn the heroine of my lyre, 

 Show me the fair would scorn to spy,

And prize such conquest of her eye!



VI

While yet he loitered on the spot,

It seemed as Ellen marked him not;

But when he turned him to the glade, 

One courteous parting sign she made;


And after, oft the knight would say,

That not when prize of festal day

Was dealt him by the brightest fair,

Who e’er wore jewel in her hair, 

So highly did his bosom swell,

As at that simple mute farewell.


Now with a trusty mountain-guide,

And his dark stag-hounds by his side,

He parts—the maid, unconscious still, 

Watched him wind slowly round the hill;


But when his stately form was hid,

The guardian in her bosom chid—

“Thy Malcolm! vain and selfish maid!”

‘Twas thus upbraiding conscience said—


“Not so had Malcolm idly hung

On the smooth phrase of southern tongue;

Not so had Malcolm strained his eye

Another step than thine to spy.


Wake, Allan-bane,” aloud she cried, 

To the old Minstrel by her side—

“Arouse thee from thy moody dream!

I’ll give thy harp heroic theme,

And warm thee with a noble name;

Pour forth the glory of the Graeme!” 


Scarce from her lip the word had rushed,

When deep the conscious maiden blushed;

For of his clan, in hall and bower,

Young Malcolm Graeme was held the flower.



VII

The Minstrel waked his harp—three times 

Arose the well-known martial chimes,

And thrice their high heroic pride

In melancholy murmurs died.


“Vainly thou bid’st, O noble maid,”

Clasping his withered hands, he said, 

“Vainly thou bid’st me wake the strain,

Though all unwont to bid in vain.


Alas! than mine a mightier hand

Has tuned my harp, my strings has spanned!

I touch the chords of joy, but low 

And mournful answer notes of woe;


And the proud march, which victors tread,

Sinks in the wailing for the dead.

O well for me, if mine alone

That dirge’s deep prophetic tone! 


If, as my tuneful fathers said,

This harp, which erst Saint Modan swayed,

Can thus its master’s fate foretell,

Then welcome be the minstrel’s knell!



VIII

“But ah! dear lady, thus it sighed 

The eve thy sainted mother died;

And such the sounds which, while I strove

To wake a lay of war or love,

Came marring all the festal mirth,

Appalling me who gave them birth, 

And, disobedient to my call,

Wailed loud through Bothwell’s bannered hall,

Ere Douglases to ruin driven,

Were exiled from their native heaven.


Oh! if yet worse mishap and woe, 

My master’s house must undergo,

Or aught but weal to Ellen fair,

Brood in these accents of despair,

No future bard, sad Harp! shall fling

Triumph or rapture from thy string; 


One short, one final strain shall flow,

Fraught with unutterable woe,

Then shivered shall thy fragments lie,

Thy master cast him down and die!”



IX

Soothing she answered him—”Assuage, 

Mine honored friend, the fears of age;

All melodies to thee are known,

That harp has rung, or pipe has blown,

In Lowland vale or Highland glen,

From Tweed to Spey—what marvel, then,

At times, unbidden notes should rise,

Confusedly bound in memory’s ties,

Entangling, as they rush along,

The war-march with the funeral song?


Small ground is now for boding fear; 

Obscure, but safe, we rest us here.


My sire, in native virtue great,

Resigning lordship, lands, and state,

Not then to fortune more resigned,

Than yonder oak might give the wind; 


The graceful foliage storms may reave,

The noble stem they cannot grieve.

For me,”—she stooped, and, looking round,

Plucked a blue hare-bell from the ground—

“For me, whose memory scarce conveys 

An image of more splendid days,

This little flower, that loves the lea,

May well my simple emblem be;

It drinks heaven’s dew as blithe as rose

That in the king’s own garden grows; 

And when I place it in my hair,

Allan, a bard is bound to swear

He ne’er saw coronet so fair.”


Then playfully the chaplet wild

She wreathed in her dark locks, and smiled.



X

Her smile, her speech, with winning sway,

Wiled the old harper’s mood away.


With such a look as hermits throw,

When angels stoop to soothe their woe,

He gazed, till fond regret and pride 

Thrilled to a tear, then thus replied:

“Loveliest and best! thou little know’st

The rank, the honors, thou hast lost!


O might I live to see thee grace,

In Scotland’s court, thy birth-right place, 

To see my favorite’s step advance,

The lightest in the courtly dance,

The cause of every gallant’s sigh,

And leading star of every eye,

And theme of every minstrel’s art, 

The Lady of the Bleeding Heart!”note



XI

“Fair dreams are these,” the maiden cried —

Light was her accent, yet she sighed—

“Yet is this mossy rock to me

Worth splendid chair and canopy; 


Nor would my footsteps spring more gay

In courtly dance than blithe strathspey,

Nor half so pleased mine ear incline

To royal minstrel’s lay as thine.


And then for suitors proud and high, 

To bend before my conquering eye—

Thou, flattering bard! thyself wilt say,

That grim Sir Roderick owns its sway.


The Saxon scourge, Clan-Alpine’s pride,

The terror of Loch-Lomond’s side, 

Would, at my suit, thou know’st, delay

A Lennox foray—for a day.”note



XII

The ancient bard his glee repressed:

“Ill hast thou chosen theme for jest!

For who, through all this western wild, 

Named Black Sir Roderick e’er, and smiled!


In Holy-Rood a knight he slew;

I saw, when back the dirk he drew,

Courtiers give place before the stride

Of the undaunted homicide; 


And since, though outlawed, hath his hand

Full sternly kept his mountain land.

Who else dared give—ah! woe the day,

That I such hated truth should say—


The Douglas, like a stricken deer, 

Disowned by every noble peer,

Even the rude refuge we have here?

Alas, this wild marauding Chief

Alone might hazard our relief,

And now thy maiden charms expand, 

Looks for his guerdon in thy hand;


Full soon may dispensation sought,

To back his suit, from Rome he brought.


Then, though an exile on the hill,

Thy father, as the Douglas, still 

Be held in reverence and fear;

And though to Roderick thou’rt so dear,

That thou might’st guide with silken thread,

Slave of thy will, this chieftain dread;

Yet, O loved maid, thy mirth refrain! 

Thy hand is on a lion’s mane.”



XIII

“Minstrel,” the maid replied, and high

Her father’s soul glanced from her eye,

“My debts to Roderick’s house I know:

All that a mother could bestow,

To Lady Margaret’s care I owe,

Since first an orphan in the wild

She sorrowed o’er her sister’s child;


To her brave chieftain son, from ire

Of Scotland’s king who shrouds my sire. 


A deeper, holier debt is owed;

And, could I pay it with my blood,

Allan! Sir Roderick should command

My blood, my life—but not my hand.


Rather will Ellen Douglas dwell 

A votaress in Maronnan’s cell;

Rather through realms beyond the sea,

Seeking the world’s cold charity,

Where ne’er was spoke a Scottish word,

And ne’er the name of Douglas heard, 

An outcast pilgrim will she rove,

Than wed the man she cannot love.



XIV

“Thou shakest, good friend, thy tresses gray—

That pleading look, what can it say

But what I own?—I grant him brave, 

But wild as Bracklinn’s thundering wave;


And generous—save vindictive mood,

Or jealous transport, chafe his blood;

I grant him true to friendly band,

As his claymore is to his hand;


But O! that very blade of steel

More mercy for a foe would feel:

I grant him liberal, to fling

Among his clan the wealth they bring,

When back by lake and glen they wind, 

And in the Lowland leave behind,

Where once some pleasant hamlet stood,

A mass of ashes slaked with blood.


The hand that for my father fought,

I honor, as his daughter ought; 

But can I clasp it reeking red,

From peasants slaughtered in their shed?


No! wildly while his virtues gleam,

They make his passions darker seem,

And flash along his spirit high, 

Like lightning o’er the midnight sky.


While yet a child—and children know,

Instinctive taught, the friend and foe—

I shuddered at his brow of gloom,

His shadowy plaid, and sable plume; 


A maiden grown, I ill could bear

His haughty mien and lordly air;

But, if thou join’st a suitor’s claim,

In serious mood, to Roderick’s name,

I thrill with anguish! or, if e’er 

A Douglas knew the word, with fear.


To change such odious theme were best—

What think’st thou of our stranger guest?”



XV

“What think I of him?—woe the while

That brought such wanderer to our isle! 

Thy father’s battle-brand, of yore

For Tine-man forged by fairy lore.


What time he leagued, no longer foes,

His Border spears with Hotspur’s bows,

Did, self-unscabbarded, foreshow 

The footstep of a secret foe.


If courtly spy hath harbored here,

What may we for the Douglas fear?

What for this island, deemed of old

Clan-Alpine’s last and surest hold? 


If neither spy nor foe, I pray

What yet may jealous Roderick say? —


Nay, wave not thy disdainful head,

Bethink thee of the discord dread,

That kindled when at Beltane gamenote 

Thou ledst the dance with Malcolm Graeme;


Still, though thy sire the peace renewed,

Smolders in Roderick’s breast the feud;

Beware!—But hark, what sounds are these?

My dull ears catch no faltering breeze, 

No weeping birch, nor aspens wake,

Nor breath is dimpling in the lake,

Still is the canna’s hoary beard,

Yet, by my minstrel faith, I heard—

And hark again! some pipe of war 

Sends the bold pibroch from afar.”



XVI

Far up the lengthened lake were spied

Four darkening specks upon the tide,

That, slow enlarging on the view,

Four manned and masted barges grew,

And, bearing downwards from Glengyle,

Steered full upon the lonely isle;


The point of Brianchoil they passed,

And, to the windward as they cast,

Against the sun they gave to shine 

The bold Sir Roderick’s bannered Pine.


Nearer and nearer as they bear,

Spears, pikes, and axes flash in air.

Now might you see the tartans brave,

And plaids and plumage dance and wave; 


Now see the bonnets sink and rise,

As his tough oar the rower plies;

See, flashing at each sturdy stroke,

The wave ascending into smoke;


See the proud pipers on the bow, 

And mark the gaudy streamers flow

From their loud chanters down, and sweep

The furrowed bosom of the deep,

As, rushing through the lake amain,

They plied the ancient Highland strain.



XVII

Ever, as on they bore, more loud

And louder rung the pibroch proud.


At first the sound, by distance tame,

Mellowed along the waters came,

And, lingering long by cape and bay, 

Wailed every harsher note away,

Then bursting bolder on the ear,

The clan’s shrill Gathering they could hear;


Those thrilling sounds, that call the might

Of Old Clan-Alpine to the fight. 


Thick beat the rapid notes, as when

The mustering hundreds shake the glen,

And hurrying at the signal dread,

The battered earth returns their tread.


Then prelude light, of livelier tone, 

Expressed their merry marching on,

Ere peal of closing battle rose,

With mingled outcry, shrieks, and blows;


And mimic din of stroke and ward,

As broad sword upon target jarred; 

And groaning pause, ere yet again,

Condensed, the battle yelled amain;


The rapid charge, the rallying shout,

Retreat borne headlong into rout,

And bursts of triumph, to declare 

Clan-Alpine’s conquest—all were there.


Nor ended thus the strain; but slow

Sunk in a moan prolonged and low,

And changed the conquering clarion swell,

For wild lament o’er those that fell.



XVIII

The war-pipes ceased; but lake and hill

Were busy with their echoes still;


And, when they slept, a vocal strain

Bade their hoarse chorus wake again,

While loud a hundred clansmen raise 

Their voices in their Chieftain’s praise.


Each boatman, bending to his oar,

With measured sweep the burden bore,

In such wild cadence, as the breeze

Makes through December’s leafless trees. 


The chorus first could Allan know,

“Roderick Vich Alpine, ho! iro!”

And near, and nearer as they rowed,

Distinct the martial ditty flowed.



XIX
BOAT SONG

Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances! 

Honored and blessed be the ever-green Pine!

Long may the tree, in his banner that glances,

Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line!


Heaven send it happy dew,

Earth lend it sap anew, 

Gayly to borgeon, and broadly to grow,

While every Highland glen

Sends our shout back again,

“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”


Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain, 

Blooming at Beltane, in winter to fade;

When the whirlwind has stripped every leaf on the mountain,

The more shall Clan-Alpine exult in her shade.


Moored in the rifted rock,

Proof to the tempest’s shock, 

Firmer he roots him the ruder it blow;

Menteith and Breadalbane, then,

Echo his praise again,

“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”



XX

Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin,

And Bannochar’s groans to our slogan replied;

Glen Luss and Ross-dhu, they are smoking in ruin,

And the best of Loch-Lomond lie dead on her side.


Widow and Saxon maid Long shall lament our raid, 

Think of Clan-Alpine with fear and with woe;

Lennox and Leven-glen Shake when they hear again

“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”


Row, vassals, row, for the pride of the highlands! 

Stretch to your oars, for the ever-green Pine!

O that the rose-bud that graces yon islands,

Were wreathed in a garland around him to twine!


O that some seedling gem,

Worthy such noble stem, 

Honored and blest in their shadow might grow;

Loud should Clan-Alpine then

Ring from her deepmost glen,

“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”



XXI

With all her joyful female band, 

Had Lady Margaret sought the strand.


Loose on the breeze their tresses flew,

And high their snowy arms they threw,

As echoing back with shrill acclaim,

And chorus wild, the Chieftain’s name; 


While, prompt to please, with mother’s art,

The darling passion of his heart,

The Dame called Ellen to the strand,

To greet her kinsman ere he land:

“Come, loiterer, come! a Douglas thou, 

And shun to wreathe a victor’s brow?”


Reluctantly and slow, the maid

The unwelcome summoning obeyed,

And, when a distant bugle rung,

In the mid-path aside she sprung: 

“List Allan-bane! From mainland cast

I hear my father’s signal blast.

Be ours,” she cried, “the skiff to guide,

And waft him from the mountain side.”


Then, like a sunbeam, swift and bright, 

She darted to her shallop light,

And, eagerly while Roderick scanned,

For her dear form, his mother’s band,

The islet far behind her lay,

And she had landed in the bay.



XXII

Some feelings are to mortals given,

With less of earth in them than heaven:


And if there be a human tear

From passion’s dross refined and clear,

A tear so limpid and so meek, 

It would not stain an angel’s cheek,

‘Tis that which pious fathers shed

Upon a duteous daughter’s head!


And as the Douglas to his breast

His darling Ellen closely pressed, 

Such holy drops her tresses steeped,

Though ’twas an hero’s eye that weeped.


Nor while on Ellen’s faltering tongue

Her filial welcomes crowded hung,

Marked she, that fear, affection’s proof, 

Still held a graceful youth aloof;


No! not till Douglas named his name,

Although the youth was Malcolm Graeme.



XXIII

Allan, with wistful look the while,

Marked Roderick landing on the isle; 

His master piteously he eyed.

Then gazed upon the Chieftain’s pride,

Then dashed, with hasty hand, away

From his dimmed eye the gathering spray;


And Douglas, as his hand he laid 

On Malcolm’s shoulder, kindly said,

“Canst thou, young friend, no meaning spy

In my poor follower’s glistening eye?


I’ll tell thee: he recalls the day,

When in my praise he led the lay 

O’er the arched gate of Bothwell proud,

While many a minstrel answered loud,

When Percy’s Norman pennon, won

In bloody field, before me shone,

And twice ten knights, the least a name 

As mighty as yon Chief may claim,

Gracing my pomp, behind me came.

Yet trust me, Malcolm, not so proud

Was I of all that marshaled crowd,

Though the waned crescent owned my might,

And in my train trooped lord and knight,

Though Blantyre hymned her holiest lays,

And Bothwell’s bards flung back my praise,

As when this old man’s silent tear,

And this poor maid’s affection dear, 

A welcome give more kind and true,

Than aught my better fortunes knew.


Forgive, my friend, a father’s boast,

Oh! it out-beggars all I lost!”



XXIV

Delightful praise!—like summer rose, 

That brighter in the dew-drop glows,

The bashful maiden’s cheek appeared,

For Douglas spoke and Malcolm heard.


The flush of shame-faced joy to hide,

The hounds, the hawk, her cares divide; 

The loved caresses of the maid

The dogs with crouch and whimper paid;


And, at her whistle, on her hand

The falcon took his favorite stand,

Closed his dark wing, relaxed his eye, 

Nor, though unhooded, sought to fly.


And, trust, while in such guise she stood,

Like fabled Goddess of the wood,

That if a father’s partial thought

O’erweighed her worth, and beauty aught, 

Well might the lover’s judgment fail

To balance with a juster scale;


For with each secret glance he stole,

The fond enthusiast sent his soul.



XXV

Of stature tall, and slender frame, 

But firmly knit, was Malcolm Graeme.


The belted plaid and tartan hose

Did ne’er more graceful limbs disclose;

His flaxen hair, of sunny hue,

Curled closely round his bonnet blue.

Trained to the chase, his eagle eye

The ptarmigan in snow could spy;


Each pass, by mountain, lake, and heath,

He knew, through Lennox and Menteith;


Vain was the bound of dark-brown doe, 

When Malcolm bent his sounding bow,

And scarce that doe, though winged with fear,

Outstripped in speed the mountaineer;


Right up Ben-Lomond could he press,

And not a sob his toil confess. 


His form accorded with a mind

Lively and ardent, frank and kind;


A blither heart, till Ellen came,

Did never love nor sorrow tame;

It danced as lightsome in his breast, 

As played the feather on his crest.


Yet friends, who nearest knew the youth,

His scorn of wrong, his zeal for truth,

And bards, who saw his features bold,

When kindled by the tales of old, 

Said, were that youth to manhood grown,

Not long should Roderick Dhu’s renown

Be foremost voiced by mountain fame,

But quail to that of Malcolm Graeme.



XXVI

Now back they wend their watery way, 

And, “O my sire!” did Ellen say,

“Why urge thy chase so far astray?

And why so late returned? And why”—

The rest was in her speaking eye.


“My child, the chase I follow far, 

‘Tis mimicry of noble war;

And with that gallant pastime reft

Were all of Douglas I have left.


I met young Malcolm as I strayed

Far eastward, in Glenfinlas’ shade,

Nor strayed I safe; for all around,

Hunters and horsemen scoured the ground.


This youth, though still a royal ward,

Risked life and land to be my guard,

And through the passes of the wood 

Guided my steps, not unpursued;


And Roderick shall his welcome make,

Despite old spleen, for Douglas’ sake.

Then must he seek Strath-Endrick glen,

Nor peril aught for me again.”



XXVII

Sir Roderick, who to meet them came,

Reddened at sight of Malcolm Graeme,

Yet, not in action, word, or eye,

Failed aught in hospitality.


In talk and sport they whiled away 

The morning of that summer day;

But at high noon a courier light

Held secret parley with the knight,

Whose moody aspect soon declared,

That evil were the news he heard. 


Deep thought seemed toiling in his head;

Yet was the evening banquet made,

Ere he assembled round the flame,

His mother, Douglas, and the Graeme,

And Ellen too; then cast around 

His eyes, then fixed them on the ground,

As studying phrase that might avail

Best to convey unpleasant tale.


Long with his dagger’s hilt he played,

Then raised his haughty brow, and said:



XXVIII

“Short be my speech—nor time affords,

Nor my plain temper, glozing words.

Kinsman and father—if such name

Douglas vouchsafe to Roderick’s claim;


Mine honored mother—Ellen—why, 

My cousin, turn away thine eye?—

And Graeme, in whom I hope to know

Full soon a noble friend or foe,

When age shall give thee thy command,

And leading in thy native land— 


List all—The King’s vindictive pride

Boasts to have tamed the Border-side,

Where chiefs, with hound and hawk who came

To share their monarch’s silvan game,

Themselves in bloody toils were snared; 

And when the banquet they prepared,

And wide their loyal portals flung,

O’er their own gateway struggling hung.


Loud cries their blood from Meggat’s mead,

From Yarrow braes, and banks of Tweed, 

Where the lone streams of Ettrick glide,

And from the silver Teviot’s side;

The dales, where martial clans did ride,

Are now one sheep-walk, waste and wide.


This tyrant of the Scottish throne, 

So faithless, and so ruthless known,

Now hither comes; his end the same,

The same pretext of silvan game.


What grace for Highland Chiefs, judge ye

By fate of Border chivalry. 

Yet more; amid Glenfinlas’ green,

Douglas, thy stately form was seen.


This by espial sure I know:

Your counsel in the strait I show.”



XXIX

Ellen and Margaret fearfully 

Sought comfort in each other’s eye,

Then turned their ghastly look, each one,

This to her sire, that to her son.


The hasty color went and came

In the bold cheek of Malcolm Graeme; 

But from his glance it well appeared,

‘Twas but for Ellen that he feared;


While, sorrowful, but undismayed,

The Douglas thus his counsel said:

“Brave Roderick, though the tempest roar, 

It may but thunder and pass o’er;


Nor will I here remain an hour,

To draw the lightning on thy bower;

For well thou know’st, at this gray head

The royal bolt were fiercest sped. 


For thee, who, at thy King’s command,

Canst aid him with a gallant band,

Submission, homage, humbled pride,

Shall turn the Monarch’s wrath aside.


Poor remnants of the Bleeding Heart, 

Ellen and I will seek, apart,

The refuge of some forest cell,

There, like the hunted quarry, dwell,

Till on the mountain and the moor,

The stern pursuit be passed and o’er.”



XXX

“No, by mine honor,” Roderick said,

“So help me Heaven, and my good blade!

No, never! Blasted be yon Pine,

My fathers’ ancient crest and mine,

If from its shade in danger part 

The lineage of the Bleeding Heart!


Hear my blunt speech:

Grant me this maid

To wife, thy counsel to mine aid;

To Douglas, leagued with Roderick Dhu,

Will friends and allies flock enow; 

Like cause of doubt, distrust, and grief

Will bind to us each Western Chief.


When the loud pipes my bridal tell,

The Links of Forth shall hear the knell,

The guards shall start in Stirling’s porch; 

And, when I light the nuptial torch,

A thousand villages in flames

Shall scare the slumbers of King James!


—Nay, Ellen, blench not thus away,

And, mother, cease these signs, I pray; 

I meant not all my heat might say.

Small need of inroad, or of fight,

When the sage Douglas may unite

Each mountain clan in friendly band,

To guard the passes of their land, 

Till the foiled king, from pathless glen,

Shall bootless turn him home again.”



XXXI

There are who have, at midnight hour,

In slumber scaled a dizzy tower,

And, on the verge that beetled o’er 

The ocean tide’s incessant roar,

Dreamed calmly out their dangerous dream,

Till wakened by the morning beam;


When, dazzled by the eastern glow,

Such startler cast his glance below, 

And saw unmeasured depth around,

And heard unintermitted sound,

And thought the battled fence so frail,

It waved like cobweb in the gale;


Amid his senses’ giddy wheel, 

Did he not desperate impulse feel,

Headlong to plunge himself below,

And meet the worst his fears foreshow?


Thus, Ellen, dizzy and astound,

As sudden ruin yawned around, 

By crossing terrors wildly tossed,

Still for the Douglas fearing most,

Could scarce the desperate thought withstand,

To buy his safety with her hand.



XXXII

Such purpose dread could Malcolm spy 

In Ellen’s quivering lip and eye,

And eager rose to speak—but ere

His tongue could hurry forth his fear,

Had Douglas marked the hectic strife,

Where death seemed combating with life; 


For to her cheek, in feverish flood,

One instant rushed the throbbing blood,

Then ebbing back, with sudden sway,

Left its domain as wan as clay.


“Roderick, enough! enough!” he cried, 

“My daughter cannot be thy bride;

Not that the blush to wooer dear,

Nor paleness that of maiden fear.


It may not be—forgive her, Chief,

Nor hazard aught for our relief. 

Against his sovereign, Douglas ne’er

Will level a rebellious spear.


‘Twas I that taught his youthful hand

To rein a steed and wield a brand;

I see him yet, the princely boy! 

Not Ellen more my pride and joy;


I love him still, despite my wrongs,

By hasty wrath, and slanderous tongues.

O seek the grace you well may find,

Without a cause to mine combined.”



XXXIII

Twice through the hall the Chieftain strode;

The waving of his tartans broad,

And darkened brow, where wounded pride

With ire and disappointment vied,

Seemed, by the torch’s gloomy light, 

Like the ill Demon of the night,

Stooping his pinions’ shadowy sway

Upon the knighted pilgrim’s way.


But, unrequited Love! thy dart

Plunged deepest its envenomed smart, 

And Roderick, with thine anguish stung,

At length the hand of Douglas wrung,

While eyes, that mocked at tears before,

With bitter drops were running o’er.


The death-pangs of long-cherished hope 

Scarce in that ample breast had scope,

But, struggling with his spirit proud,

Convulsive heaved its checkered shroud,

While every sob—so mute were all—

Was heard distinctly through the hall. 


The son’s despair, the mother’s look,

Ill might the gentle Ellen brook;

She rose, and to her side there came,

To aid her parting steps, the Graeme.



XXXIV

Then Roderick from the Douglas broke— 

As flashes flame through sable smoke,

Kindling its wreaths, long, dark, and low,

To one broad blaze of ruddy glow,

So the deep anguish of despair

Burst, in fierce jealousy, to air. 


With stalwart grasp his hand he laid

On Malcolm’s breast and belted plaid:

“Back, beardless boy!” he sternly said,

“Back, minion! hold’st thou thus at naught

The lesson I so lately taught? 


This roof, the Douglas, and that maid,

Thank thou for punishment delayed.”

Eager as a greyhound on his game

Fiercely with Roderick grappled Graeme.


“Perish my name, if aught afford 

Its Chieftain’s safety save his sword!”

Thus as they strove, their desperate hand

Griped to the dagger or the brand,

And death had been—but Douglas rose,

And thrust between the struggling foes 

His giant strength: “Chieftains, forego!

I hold the first who strikes, my foe.


Madmen, forbear your frantic jar!

What! is the Douglas fallen so far,

His daughter’s hand is deemed the spoil 

Of such dishonorable broil!”


Sullen and slowly they unclasp,

As struck with shame, their desperate grasp,

And each upon his rival glared,

With foot advanced, and blade half bared.



XXXV

Ere yet the brands aloft were flung

Margaret on Roderick’s mantle hung,

And Malcolm heard his Ellen’s scream,

As faltered through terrific dream.


Then Roderick plunged in sheath his sword 

And veiled his wrath in scornful word:

“Rest safe till morning; pity ’twere

Such cheek should feel the midnight air!


Then mayest thou to James Stuart tell,

Roderick will keep the lake and fell, 

Nor lackey, with his freeborn clan,

The pageant pomp of earthly man.


More would he of Clan-Alpine know,

Thou canst our strength and passes show.

Malise, what ho!”—his henchman came;

“Give our safe-conduct to the Graeme.”


Young Malcolm answered, calm and bold,

“Fear nothing for thy favorite hold;

The spot, an angel deigned to grace,

Is blessed, though robbers haunt the place. 


Thy churlish courtesy for those

Reserve, who fear to be thy foes.

As safe to me the mountain way

At midnight as in blaze of day,

Though with his boldest at his back 

Even Roderick Dhu beset the track.—


Brave Douglas—lovely Ellen—nay,

Nought here of parting will I say.

Earth does not hold a lonesome glen

So secret but we meet again.— 


Chieftain! we too shall find an hour,”

He said, and left the silvan bower.



XXXVI

Old Allan followed to the strand—

Such was the Douglas’s command—

And anxious told, how, on the morn, 

The stern Sir Roderick deep had sworn

The Fiery Cross should circle o’er

Dale, glen, and valley, down, and moor.


Much were the peril to the Graeme

From those who to the signal came; 

Far up the lake ’twere safest land,

Himself would row him to the strand.


He gave his counsel to the wind,

While Malcolm did, unheeding, bind,

Round dirk and pouch and broadsword rolled, 

His ample plaid in tightened fold,

And stripped his limbs to such array,

As best might suit the watery way—



XXXVII

Then spoke abrupt: “Farewell to thee,

Pattern of old fidelity!” 

The Minstrel’s hand he kindly pressed—

“Oh, could I point a place of rest!


My sovereign holds in ward my land,

My uncle leads my vassal band;

To tame his foes, his friends to aid, 

Poor Malcolm has but heart and blade.


Yet, if there be one faithful Graeme,

Who loves the chieftain of his name,

Not long shall honored Douglas dwell

Like hunted stag in mountain cell; 


Nor, ere yon pride-swoll’n robber dare,

I might not give the rest to air!

Tell Roderick Dhu, I owed him nought,

Not the poor service of a boat,

To waft me to yon mountain-side.” 

Then plunged he in the flashing tide.


Bold o’er the flood his head he bore,

And stoutly steered him from the shore;

And Allan strained his anxious eye,

Far mid the lake his form to spy, 

Darkening across each puny wave,

To which the moon her silver gave,

Fast as the cormorant could skim,

The swimmer plied each active limb;


Then landing in the moonlight dell, 

Loud shouted of his weal to tell.

The Minstrel heard the far halloo,

And joyful from the shore withdrew.



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